Difference Between a Cyst and a Tumor (With Table)

The human body is a crucial thing to study; there is not a single [person who can guarantee to have complete knowledge of the human body or mind. Now and then, some diseases or infections are being discovered among the human race. And the time they are fully understood, the next big step is to find the vaccination or cure for them. Some of them are dangerous while other is not. An example of such a situation is a body lump; it can appear on any part of the body and can be uncomfortable. There are two types of lumps, cyst and tumor.

Cyst vs Tumor

The difference between a cyst and a tumor is that both of them are different in terms of their characteristics. A cyst is fast-growing whereas cyst grows slowly, the cyst is red and swollen in appearance whereas tumor is not, the cyst has a blackhead in the center whereas tumor does not have this, the cyst can also have white, yellow, or green discharge sometimes while no such discharge is in case of a tumor, the tumor is firm while cyst is not, the cyst is tender and can move under the skin while both of these are absent in tumor.

A cyst is a small or large sac in the body. It can be hard or soft when filled with fluid or other material. It can take place on any part of the body. In most cases, they are harmful and do not cause pain, but in some cases, when it gets filled with pus or any other fluid, they can be very irritating and may cause harm to organs or the body. The cause behind them is different that mostly depends upon the place they are formed. 

The tumor is caused as a result of abnormal growth of cells and generally serves no purpose on the body. They grow faster and does not have complication unless they are malignant or are cancerous in that case they can lead to the formation of cancer cells and can affect several tissues in the body. Otherwise, there is no harm of tumor on the body. They do not need to be treated unless they are cancerous.

Comparison Table Between a Cyst and a Tumor

Parameters of ComparisonCystTumor
Growing speedComparatively slowerFaster
ComplicationMoreLess unless it is malignant or cancerous
EtiologyResult of an infectionMost of them does not have any specific root cause
CancerousMostly non-cancerousCan be cancerous

What is a Cyst?

There are many types of a cyst and in general, it is the lump on the body, and treatment of which depends on the following factors:

  • Type of cyst.
  • Where the cyst is located on the body.
  • Whether cyst is discomforting or not.
  • Inflammation or infection is in the cyst.

Following are types of cysts:

  1. Epidermoid Cyst: it is commonly found on the neck, genitals, face, back, head, etc., and is caused due to build-up of keratin, it is yellowish or skin-colored, and upon infection or inflammation, it might cause pain.
  2. Sebaceous Cyst: this type of cyst is found in the face, neck, etc. damage or trauma caused to the sebaceous glands is the reason behind this cyst. It may cause pain or pressure in some cases. It is noncancerous.
  3. Breast Cyst: they are noncancerous, and they may cause due to several reasons. And professional help should be taken if there are some irregular changes around the breasts area.
  4. Ganglion Cyst: it appears around tendons or joints mostly. It is not harmless and does not cause pain or uncomfortableness.
  5.  Pilonidal Cyst: it appears on the cleft top of the bottoms after the person hits puberty. The cause of this can be the changes that take place during puberty. 
  6. Ovarian Cyst: it can develop on single or both ovaries. They can be painful sometimes. In case of severe symptoms and pain doctor should be immediately consulted. 

There are other types of cysts as well, such as popliteal cyst, pilar cyst, mucous cyst, branchial cleft cyst, perineural cyst, etc. 

What is a Tumor?

The tumor is large in size and causes pressure on tissues. They can also lead to other symptoms, such as difficulty in moving joints, breathing, eating, etc., which depends on the location of the tumor in the body. They are mainly caused due to abnormal cell growth. Some of them might only form in a particular area and do not spread, whereas some dangerous tumors spread to nearby tissues and can cause cancer and hence, cancerous cells move to a different part of the body and can also affect different tissues. 

In case the tumors are not painful or do not cause any difficulty in the normal functioning of the body, they are harmless and do not cause cancer on any dangerous harm to the body. But in case even a little difficult immediately, doctors should be consulted so that cancer cells should not get spread to other parts of the body.

They can be treated on the basis of their location and type. 

Main Differences Between a Cyst and a Tumor

  1. When compared in terms of their growing speed, Tumor is relatively faster as it gets spread faster in the body while cyst takes time to get spread in the body and hence is comparatively slower.
  2. Both of them can be complicated, but if compared, cysts can be more complicated as they can be really difficult to remove, and sometimes surgery has to be done for it, whereas tumor is relatively less complicated.
  3. In terms of consistency, the cyst is soft to touch in the body, whereas the tumor is relatively harder to touch in the body.
  4. A cyst mostly results from an infection in most cases, whereas there is no main or exact reason behind causing a tumor.
  5. Lastly, they can also be differentiated in terms of cancerous. The cyst is likely to be mostly non-cancerous (there are exceptions), whereas the tumor can be cancerous in many cases.


Both of them are lumps of body and hence can be difficult to recognize, but with the help of the above differences, it should not be a problem. Sometimes, even a doctor gets confused between them, but it is also useful to consult a professional before making any assumptions, as they can make complete surety of it by running some important tests. And hence the best treatment can be done. Sometimes the lumps on the body may not be either of them, it may be due to hitting the part on some hard surface, but if the lump does not disappear after a few hours, it may be something serious.


  1. https://www.auajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1016/S0022-5347%2817%2956023-1
  2. https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/abs/10.1148/101.1.7
  3. https://www.auajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1016/S0022-5347%2817%2964047-3
2D vs 3D